Tom Osborne & Bob Devaney are the first coaches to be enshrined in the University of Nebraska Athletics Hall of Fame.
Photo by University Archives and Special Collections, UNL Library

Iconic Coaches Among 2018 Hall of Fame Class

By Randy York

Two fabled Nebraska football coaches – the late Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne – will be enshrined Friday into the Nebraska Athletics Hall of Fame as members of the 2018 class.

In the fourth year of the Nebraska Athletics Hall of Fame, the legendary coaches will join five distinguished Husker student-athlete honorees in the 2018 class.

The student-athlete honorees include Darin Erstad (baseball, 1993-95; football, 1994, and current head baseball coach); Peaches James (softball, 2001-04); Sarah Pavan (volleyball, 2004-07); Mike Rozier (football, 1981-83) and Tom Schlesinger (men’s gymnastics, 1985-88).  Erstad and Rozier both played for Coach Osborne, while Rozier and Schlesinger’s outstanding careers came under Devaney’s watch as Nebraska Athletic Director.

Devaney and Osborne will jointly become the first head coaches inducted into the Nebraska Athletic Hall of Fame, and Husker fans have one person to thank for making that happen – Bill Moos, Nebraska’s first-year Athletic Director.

Moos lives, operates and embraces a work-related slogan for progressive action: Honor the past. Live the present. Create the future.

Those nine simple words carry impressive significance for Moos, who uses those words to set the tone for building champions in competition and in life. While Moos and Nebraska will honor the past at Friday’s enshrinement ceremony and banquet, they will live the present the next day when Scott Frost coaches his first game as Nebraska’s head coach 45 years to the day after Tom Osborne coached his first game at Nebraska. Both Frost and Osborne also faced a Pac-12 opponent in their first game, with Osborne defeating No. 10 UCLA, 40-13, at Memorial Stadium on Sept. 8, 1973.

While Moos and Frost are busy creating the future, the impact of Devaney and Osborne cannot be understated for a football program that ranks fourth all-time in victories and an athletic department that is among the healthiest in the country. Not only were Devaney and Osborne both inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame immediately following their final season, both Devaney (1967-92) and Osborne (2007-12) also served as Nebraska’s athletic director.

On the sideline, Devaney coached Nebraska to eight conference titles and the first two national championships in school history (1970 and 1971). He posted a  101-20-2 record at Nebraska, exiting as the nation’s winningest active coach. Osborne coached the Huskers to 13 conference titles and three national championships in 25 years (1973-97), with a 255-49-3 overall record.

Small wonder why Devaney and Osborne became the first head coaches inducted into the Nebraska Hall of Fame. But they aren’t the only history makers in the 2018 class.

Erstad became the first Husker baseball player named the conference player of the year and the first player in Major League Baseball history to win a Gold Glove Award at multiple positions.

James was the first pitcher in Big 12 history to be a four-time first team all-conference selection and a two-time finalist for national player of the year.

Pavan was the only individual in NCAA history to be a two-time national Academic All-American of the Year. She was also one of only five volleyball players in NCAA history to be a four-time first-team All-American.

Rozier was the second player in NCAA history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season (2,148 yards in 1983). His consistent performance facilitated him to win the Heisman Trophy in 1983.

Schlesinger was the first Husker gymnast to be an Academic All-American, was a multi-time All-American both academically and athletically, an individual and team national champion and also an Olympian.

When the class arrives at Memorial Stadium on Friday, they will enter through the doors of North Memorial Stadium, which features a statue of Tom Osborne outside the front doors. Overlooking the entrance to East Memorial Stadium – and the Nebraska Athletics Hall of Fame Plaza – is a statue of Devaney. The two will forever be linked to the great history of Husker athletics.

“There’s nobody that deserves a statue more than Bob Devaney,” Osborne once told me. “I worked for Bob for 30 years as an assistant coach and a head coach. He was always my boss. He was a great guy to work for. If I had not met Bob Devaney, I probably would not even have considered coaching.”

Devaney built Nebraska’s modern-day football program, and he did it with precision. After inheriting a team that won only three games in 1961, Devaney made an immediate impact with a 9-2 debut season while leading the Huskers to the second bowl game in school history and the first in 22 years. But Devaney endured some grumbling after back-to-back, non-bowl seasons with identical 6-4 records in 1967 and 1968. “Never afraid to change” according to Osborne, Devaney revamped his program, which included hiring Boyd Epley as the first strength and conditioning coach in the history of college football.

We all know the rest of the story. Nebraska changed its offense and transformed its defense, two changes that helped the Huskers win their first and their second national championships in 1970 and 1971. Osborne took over for Devaney and ended his career with three national championships in his final four seasons, finishing No. 1 in 1994, 1995 and 1997.

With a familiar foe in town, this weekend is appropriate timing to recognize Devaney and Osborne. After all, Devaney went 10-1 against Colorado – Nebraska’s Saturday opponent – while Osborne boasted a 21-3-1 mark against the Buffaloes. Scott Frost was also 2-0 against Colorado as Nebraska’s starting quarterback. Osborne was on Devaney’s staff for his first game at Nebraska and he will be on the field Saturday for Frost’s Husker coaching debut. Osborne and Devaney will both be forever linked to the Nebraska football past, present and future so it is only fitting – especially at the urging of an Athletic Director who preaches honoring the past, living the present and creating the future – that Devaney and Osborne are the first coaches inducted into the Nebraska Athletics Hall of Fame.

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